by Catherine Doherty.
There’s more to celebration than you might think.
What is celebration? Celebration doesn’t mean a big party with balloons, drinking, carousing, and in general creating a lot of noise to assure oneself that one is celebrating. It isn’t "painting the town red," an old and strange expression.
We must plunge deeply into that word celebration for it contains so much more than we attribute to it.
Celebration is the song of praise coming from the heart of a human being and going to the heart of God.
It is a song, a dance, a light that comes forth from a human heart that is totally ready to surrender to God’s will. For though celebration is a joy, it is a type of joy that comes to you from passing through the archway of God’s pain.
Factually, to celebrate means to bring joy and gladness into every step of our lives. Once this new dimension of celebration opens before our eyes, life changes completely.
Now we can bring to it, and into it, new ways of helping and serving our brethren in the Lord. For by our own celebration of all the events which the will of the Lord brings to us, we give courage and benediction to everyone we meet.
Celebration is a return to childhood, but not the return of a psychiatric patient. There is nothing psychiatric about it. It is simply the ability to wonder again.
So many times have I watched our young members or visitors walk from the dining room to their dormitory or to the gift shop or the handicraft building or the office.
They never notice the beautiful blending of colors on the rocks. Nor have they observed the soft and tender needles of the tamarack tree, near the statue of Our Lady of the Snows. Eddie and I planted that tree. It is a great contrast to the pine trees around it.
In summer some exclaim over the beauty of the rose bushes as they walk to the office; but few notice the devil’s paintbrush, the yellow dandelions, or the little violets that lie by the edge of the road.
It takes the eyes of a child to see all of this, and the ears of a child (or an adult child) to hear in the depths of one’s heart the music of celebration.
It takes an "innocent" eye to catch the sparkle of sunlight on the waves of the river, to notice the violets in their grass cushion, to see the beauty of the tamarack tree and to look at oneself, and realize that one’s soul is part of all creation. In fact, everything is God’s unrehearsed celebration.
All the voices of the various musical instruments of the world sing in tune with one’s heart. They sing the testament of love, given to us by God through all of creation. It is a testament to read and hear every day if we but learn how to do so. And it is best learned on our knees or "on tiptoe."
Celebration is the dance of faith that man dances throughout his whole life, from birth to death. It is a beautiful dance with an ever-changing pattern of notes, now intricate, now simple.
Celebration is the expression of hope when man walks in darkness, seemingly without anything feeding that hope, except his dance of faith.
Celebration is love that brings to earth the song of praise and the sound of dancing feet. It is a light, which hope sheds in total darkness.
It is imperative, then, that we learn to extend our hearts to embrace new dimensions of celebration. It is not only song or dance or light. As with all spiritual depths, we must not pause before one of its sunlit or shadowed landscapes and become overly entranced with the view.
We must continue on, always going upwards unto the mountain of the Lord. With every step of the way, the life of the spirit will embrace wider horizons and acquire new dimensions that we never suspected were there.
This pilgrimage up the holy mountain of the Lord is what our spiritual life is all about—climbing to the heights of an untouchable mountain and there, like Moses on Mount Sinai, meeting God face to face.
Yes, the heart of those who celebrate constantly will be able to celebrate the will of God in every event of life.
We have come to sick beds where people give out the clear notes of joyous song praising God. It is sometimes people with terminal diseases who sing these Glorias and Alleluias. Though they cannot walk, they have dancing feet. They radiate a light that comes from the candle of hope dwelling in their hearts.
Visitors who enter these sick rooms filled with despair and sorrow leave it with hearts flooded with joy and hope—even though they may have abandoned all hope for physical recovery of the patient.
The person who has a joyous heart, who celebrates the will of God in everything, is like a choir of angels singing "Gloria in Excelsis Deo! Come to the stable. Come and witness the birth of Hope in human flesh." He sends a clarion call to all who are seeking.
There are the great celebrations of the liturgical year: Christmas, Easter, Pentecost. Liturgy makes music in the heart, as memories are aroused of these wonderful deeds of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Liturgy is one great cry of celebration, so immense, so incredible, so ineffable. So much so that, when you want to capture it in words, it passes through your fingers like molten gold and silver.
The glowing metal doesn’t burn you; instead it recreates you, and it brings music and dance into your life.
Whoever celebrates the liturgy, and fully and actively participates in it, never has a drab life. Life goes from celebration to celebration, moving to a music in which heaven and earth blend their voices.
For human beings, celebration must always be a part of the great festival days of life. The Christian soul moves in a rhythm of celebration, a beautiful rhythm of birth, baptism, communion, confirmation, marriage, priesthood, religious life, single life in the world, widowhood.
These are major signposts in life. They call, cry out for, demand celebration.
In our prayers, we commemorate the holy men and women who trod this earth before us. We remember their lives from birth to death, and everything in between.
Death, too, is a cause for celebration. Let it be celebrated with tambourines and drums, with bells and stringed instruments. For death is the greatest celebration of all.
All of the other events of life lead up to it. Now the doors of the Kingdom are fully opened. The soul stands on the threshold, surrounded by angels and archangels, by saints and all those whom the soul has served and helped throughout its life.
The soul listens to a music that few on earth can hear yet; but eventually all will hear it. Yes, death is a time of celebration too.
All of life’s great events are celebrated with him who has numbered each of our days, and we celebrate in him.
Those who fall in love with God have a happy heart, and they walk in music that is both earthly and heavenly. They are the ones whose hands are filled by God to help them celebrate with all the rest of humanity.
They celebrate sickness and health, pain and joy; for all the events of life are like harp-strings in their hands. Out of everything, they fashion a song to the Lord. And because it is so profound, it always comes out the same: Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
When all is said and done, celebration is simply love bursting open like a new apple blossom, and spreading its perfume across the world around it. Come, then. Let us together, hand in hand, climb the mountain of the Lord so that we might understand better what celebration means.
And let us start celebrating in earnest.
—Excerpted and adapted from Dearly Beloved, Vol. 3, pp.66-70, available from Madonna House Publications.
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